The new collective bargaining agreement in 2011 provided a slotting system for rookie contracts, making the negotiating process much more simple than it used to be for first-round draft picks. It also creates a decision for teams after that initial three years of the four-year contract is up — like the Cardinals are facing with wide receiver Michael Floyd.
The Cards have yet to make a choice whether to invoke Floyd’s option, which would lock him up through the 2016 season. As the former 12th overall pick, Floyd would be due a salary of more than $7 million in 2016 if the Cards picked up the option — which must be decided by May 3, the day after the draft. That’s a lot of money, especially when Larry Fitzgerald is also being guaranteed $11 million for that season. Plus, Floyd’s play hasn’t reach that level yet either. He became a major deep threat for the Cardinals under Bruce Arians, and did average 17.9 yards a catch last season. But he had only 47 receptions, and while Arians said he thought Floyd ended up a “victim” of the quarterback injuries, Arians added “I think some frustration showed in his play sometimes.”
“He still needs to hit a consistency level,” Arians said. “He’s a 1,000-yard player. He should have had 1,000 easily. But there were some balls we expect him to come down with and he didn’t come down with and that’s what is holding him down from being elite.”
The Cardinals don’t have any reason to make a choice on the option before May 3. In a draft deep at wide receiver, it’s possible they could draft one higher, for the future, which could help a decision. The team would still have plenty of time to work out a contract extension before that option would kick in, even if they choose to exercise it. There is plenty of time for an extension even if they don’t, for that matter. There is little question this year is a big one for Floyd, but this particular contract choice has to be made without that able to play out first.
Tags: Michael Floyd
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Former safety Adrian Wilson, who retired earlier this week, will indeed have a job for the Cardinals on draft weekend. No, he hasn’t accepted a role in the front office. (Not yet, anyway.) But he will be among an impressive group of former NFL stars on hand at the draft in Chicago to announce their former team’s second-round picks on Friday night.
Friday’s second and third round of the draft begins at 4 p.m. Arizona time.
This continues a theme of the last couple of years, having former players announce selections. This is the fifth year of the program. The Cardinals currently hold the the 55th overall selection (23rd in the second round), although you never know what can happen with GM Steve Keim’s potential wheeling and dealing.
Wilson, meanwhile, is expected at some point to join the organization in some capacity. He is close with Keim, with a relationship that dates back to Wilson’s freshman year at North Carolina State. While I don’t see him as a full-time coach, I could see Wilson helping with the defensive backs, and/or helping the front office in scouting or personnel. Wilson wasn’t committing to anything yet.
“I kind of want to take my time on that,” Wilson said. Monday. “There’s really no set timeframe in answering that question.”
Tags: Adrian Wilson, draft
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Pat Tillman died 11 years ago today.
It was a jarring result of a story that had already become legend. Tillman had joined the military in 2002 after shunning the Cardinals’ multi-million dollar offer, and he had made it through his first tour of the Middle East. He even visited the Cardinals on their road trip to Seattle late in the 2003 season, to talk to then-coach Dave McGinnis. But Tillman, who could have gotten out at that point, decided he was going to go back into the fighting one more time.
I remember getting the call from a local TV sports producer I knew, asking me if I had heard the news about Tillman. I had not. I was sitting in my kitchen with my wife and two young sons, it was around 7 a.m., and I didn’t quite know what to do. I came to the Cardinals’ facility — it was the day before the 2004 draft — and it was just hard. There were still plenty of players around who had played with Pat. Offensive lineman Pete Kendall came in to talk about Tillman the best he could. New coach Denny Green, who came after Tillman left, was around, but it was like he didn’t know quite what to do around all of us that had known Tillman.
I’ve written many times about Tillman and told my Tillman stories. It’s that time of year to think about them, with the anniversary and, Saturday, the annual Pat’s Run over at ASU, in which I will be participating for a 10th straight year. It’s the time to listen to this tribute the team put together right after Pat’s death, a moving piece that local radio stations still play to this day. It’s the time to remember a guy who embodied what sacrifice was — whether it was something as little as spending his own time to teach his eventual replacement the playbook or as big as fighting for our country and losing his life because of it.
Tags: Pat Tillman
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The Cardinals have a handful of games back East (or at least in the Eastern time zone) this season and the team requested at least a couple of them back-to-back so they could just spend a week out there without having all the flying. According to Peter King, that’s what the games in Detroit Oct. 11 and Pittsburgh Oct. 18 are about — a week back East for the team. Obviously, coach Bruce Arians has deep roots in Pittsburgh having coached there for so long and being from Pennsylvania. (GM Steve Keim is from the area too, so it works for those guys.) Both Keim and Arians have a pre-draft press conference today so I’m sure the subject will come up. UPDATE: Arians confirmed the Cards plan to stay back and that the team is looking for an indoor facility within which to practice.
The last time the Cardinals spent a week away, there were some rain issues in Tampa, when the Cardinals got beat up in New Orleans in Week 3 of 2013 and then barely pulled off a win against the Buccaneers in Week 4.
A week in Pittsburgh. It’ll be interesting.
Tags: 2015 schedule, Bruce Arians, Lions, Steelers, Steve Keim
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The rehab of the quarterbacks are going to be a main storyline for the Cardinals this offseason and well they should — for all the injuries the team suffered last season, it was the quarterbacks going down that were at the core of the team’s late struggles. Starter Carson Palmer continues his rehab from a torn ACL and that will likely be taken slowly during the offseason. He needs to be ready for training camp. But backup Drew Stanton was in a good mood Tuesday talking about coming back from his knee injury.
“I’m getting to the point where I am feeling really confident in my knee,” Stanton said, emphasizing he has “no limitations” in terms of football heading into workouts. He will not be wearing a knee brace.
Stanton did say he and the Cardinals have set up a plan for offseason conditioning work that will allow Stanton to “be smart” and cut down on some of the pounding the knee might normally take. But that’s about preventative maintenance as the Cards try hard to make sure their quarterbacks stay healthy this time around.
— One other quick note with the Cards in their second day of strength and conditioning work. As always, the only work that is mandatory in the offseason is the minicamp in mid-June. This is all voluntary. While it wasn’t possible to do a roster checklist this morning, I can’t think of any player of note that wasn’t here today.
Tags: Drew Stanton, offseason, voluntary workouts
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This is when you feel the legacy, on the day in which Adrian Wilson officially retires and when he talks about the guys who helped him when he got into the league, Pat Tillman comes up. It’s fitting this time of year, when the anniversary of Tillman’s death draws near. It’s easy to forget how important Tillman was to Wilson that one season they played together, in 2001.
“I didn’t know the first thing about the playbook,” Wilson said of his rookie season. “(Defensive coordinator) Larry Marmie’s playbook was so complicated, I couldn’t understand it. Pat sat me down for hours upon hours just going through the playbook just to go to practice the next day. It was that complicated for me. I owe big dividend to Pat.”
To think, Wilson was there to essentially replace Tillman.
(Wilson thanked other “old-time” Cardinals Corey Chavous, Kwamie Lassiter, Rob Fredrickson and Ron McKinnon for their help when he was starting out too.)
— When Wilson was released back in 2013, I covered a lot of the instant emotions and thoughts I had of his career in this post. But his retirement Monday brought some closure and, perhaps sooner rather than later, maybe bring Wilson back into the building on a consistent basis. He shrugged off his future right now, saying he wanted to “take my time on that.” He’s got four young kids. That’s his focus now, although there is little question GM Steve Keim likes having him in the mix. Team president Michael Bidwill noted that before the press conference, Wilson had his mock draft around, drawing a grin from Wilson.
“He’s made some improvements from his first mock that he showed me,” Keim said. “I think I sent him back to the film room.”
— Not only was Wilson’s family there, but his two buddies from North Carolina from when he was 10 years old, Adrian Mack and Anthony Johnson, were there Monday and it took me back to 2010 when Wilson invited me back to High Point to cover his high school retiring his jersey number and I was able to meet Mack and Johnson and do a big story on who Wilson really was as a person. Looking back on that article, through the prism of today, this quote stands out, about Wilson desperately wanting to leave a legacy.
“Nobody in my family has one and I’ll be the first,” Wilson said. “That’s something I think is more important to me than anything – leaving that right mark. I want to lay a foundation down where it doesn’t matter what generation you come from, you’ve got to respect what I did.”
— Bidwill will have Wilson go in the Ring of Honor, but that date is TBD. The schedule comes out tomorrow, and then the team must figure out what home games have which events, like Breast Cancer Awareness or Salute to Service, for example.
— Wilson admits he thinks about the Hall of Fame. I’ll have a separate post on that tomorrow, but it’s been tough sledding for safeties in Canton.
— There was a good group of former teammates on hand for Wilson today: Fitz, Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Bertrand Berry, Quentin Harris, Damien Anderson, Rolando Cantu. Peterson even took the mic during the press conference to deliver a statement in front of everyone. Wilson was an important part of this franchise. He still should be.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry, Calais Campbell, Damien Anderson, Hall of Fame, Justin Bethel, Michael Bidwill, Pat Tillman, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Harris, Rashad Johnson, Rolando Cantu
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One of the things that frustrates Bruce Arians is the inability to talk football with players during certain parts of the offseason. It’s reality, though, under the current collective bargaining agreement. Today, those shackles come off.
The players have returned to begin Phase I of the offseason work. (It’s voluntary, don’t forget, although one player here was Patrick Peterson, as you can see below.) The big part of that is the strength and conditioning program, but it also includes meetings. Players can be around for four hours total (90 minutes on the field) so Arians and his coaches can finally start discussing the playbook. The new free agents can start getting the information about their duties. New defensive coordinator James Bettcher can start explaining his system and its tweaks from what Todd Bowles did.
The 2015 is here.
— The full NFL schedule will be released at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Tuesday.
— Meanwhile, the return of the players isn’t the biggest news of the day here at the team facility. There is a 1 p.m. press conference with Adrian Wilson, team president Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim. No official word on what it’s about.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bruce Arians, James Bettcher, NFL schedule, offseason
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It is a deep draft for running backs. And the Cardinals are expected to take one at some point. It seems a favorite thing for mock drafters to do, putting a running back next to the Cardinals at their No. 24 first-round pick. I still don’t see this as likely, not with Andre Ellington around, the depth of the available prospects and the question about the top back in the draft (Todd Gurley’s ACL injury.) Another potential part of this equation? What the Cardinals have gotten, or haven’t gotten, out of the backs they have drafted early.
Since the team moved to Arizona in 1988, the Cardinals have drafted a running back in the first or second round nine times:
— 1988 Tony Jeffery (8 yards in one year in Arizona)
— 1990 Anthony Thompson (774 yards in three years)
— 1993 Garrison Hearst (1,503 yards in three years)
— 1994 Chuck Levy (15 yards in one year)
— 1996 Leeland McElroy (729 yards in two years)
— 2000 Thomas Jones (1,264 yards in three years)
— 2005 J.J. Arrington (654 yards in four years)
— 2009 Beanie Wells (2,471 yards in four years)
— 2011 Ryan Williams (164 yards in three years)
Obviously, it’s not a list with spectacular results. Hearst and Jones both had solid NFL careers, but only after they left Arizona. And while only three of those picks have come in the last decade, Arrington and Wells and Williams never made a big enough impact. Wells did have a 1,000-yard season in 2011, but injuries doomed him as they did Williams.
In two seasons, Ellington has already made more of an impact, as a sixth-round pick, than most of the guys on that list — and Ellington produced some in 2014 even though he was never healthy. Given the health concerns of Ellington, and the past issues of Wells and Williams, it’s hard to imagine the Cards taking a flyer on Gurley unless they were completely convinced he was a) not have any lingering effects and b) a special talent. Some believe both those to be the case. But there would be a certain leap of faith. I could see a second-round running back, but again, in this day and age of finding backs later — and with a team that is still going to use Ellington a lot — I think Steve Keim will carefully consider his options.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Anthony Thompson, Beanie Wells, Chuck Levy, Garrison Hearst, J.J. Arrington, Leeland McElroy, Ryan Williams, Thomas Jones, Todd Gurley, Tony Jeffery
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Steve Keim has mentioned it a few times over the years, that all the time before the draft simply allows for too much analyzing of players. It’s inevitable, really, as the days pile up and the draft still has not arrived. For a team, it can be controlled in a way; the Cardinals have been conducting their draft meetings for a little over a week and are finally winding down in the parade of personnel people, scouts and coaches going in and out of the draft room about 25 feet from where I type this.
But it came to mind with all the talk about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota and where those quarterbacks might go in the draft and the sudden surge — at least among the media — of talk that Mariota is now considered by many as the No. 1 QB prospect when Winston seemed to be the consensus choice through most of the offseason. Now there is somewhat of a sea change, even though none of Winston’s 18 interceptions this season came in recent weeks and even though Mariota’s quiet personality probably hasn’t suddenly morphed into bold and loud.
In the end, I don’t think the draft is going to have any significant deviation than what everyone originally thought back in February — I think Winston goes first to Tampa, I think Mariota goes top five somewhere. I think people will keep talking about the running backs but that if they go first round, it’ll be late, because that’s where running backs go. I think, even though the Cardinals probably hope there is a drop, that all the top pass rushers are going to be top 20 picks, regardless of off-field issues. It’s always a fallacy that players are “moving” on team’s boards. Again, the Cards just started with their draft grades last week, so nobody was graded at that point anyway.
The draft is still more than two weeks away. There will still be plenty of time for all these players to be analyzed and reanalyzed over and over. The goal for teams — and the Cardinals — is to make sure that doesn’t happen. Grade a guy, and move on.
Tags: draft, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Steve Keim
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The players will be returning a week from today to begin the strength and conditioning program. While it is voluntary, I’m sure it will be well attended as guys stream back for the offseason. The workouts start Monday, with Phase 2 — which allows players to get back on the field with a ball — May 4 and then Phase 3 — which is OTAs and minicamp — beginning May 19.
And it looks like the work will take place in the team’s new weight room, too.
As the construction upgrades on the team’s Tempe facility begin to wind toward completion, workers began moving the weight equipment from the practice bubble — where it has been since right after the Super Bowl — into the team’s new and much more spacious weight room. Strength and conditioning coaches Buddy Morris, Roger Kingdom and Anthony Piroli were down there today (pictured below) discussing the new layout while that part of the rehab is finishing up. It all should be in place when work starts Monday. The new locker rooms remain work-in-progress, so players will continue to use their temporary lockers in the bubble for now.
Tags: Buddy Morris, offseason, Roger Kingdom, voluntary workouts
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